Book – The Story of Sandy and Alex

Author – Madison Francis

Year – 2023

Pages – 25

Genre – Fantasy

Written for us by Madison Francis

It is always incredibly exciting to be able to write a review of a debut novel. And even more so when the story was written for you and is STARRING you. Then to top it off, when you personally know the author (she is my wonderful niece) and you have the makings of an incredibly enjoyable review.

So backstory to the book. I got married! Alex and I were married on 29th July 2023 at Battle Abbey in East Sussex. It is an absolute cliché to say it was the best day of our lives, but I don’t care – it was the best day of our lives. We were surrounded by all the people we love – friends, family, and some incredibly beautiful bridesmaids. People were exceedingly generous in contributing to our honeymoon fund, and we also received a smattering of physical presents as well. They were all lovely, but I am sure that nobody will be offended when I say that Maddy and Ella excelled themselves. Ella made us a beautiful gemstone picture which we will be hanging on our wall. And Maddy – ever the aspiring author/actress/teacher – wrote us our own book.

The story follows two protagonists. The beautiful princess Alex, destined to wed in order to preserve the royal lineage, despite not loving any of the hapless suitors lined up for her. And the unhappy Sandy (for those not in the know, my family nickname), forced to do the bidding of his evil stepfamily. A chance encounter plays on both of their minds, but it is only through luck, circumstance, the Sorceress Maddy and the Fairy Godmother Ella that they can make it through and find true love. With fabulous supporting roles for Peggy and Popcorn to boot, it really is a fabulous fairy tale.

Obviously, I LOVED this book. Alex and I read it together (well, I read it aloud to her in true fairy tale style) the day after our wedding, and it is one of the most special things ever. However, in deference to the fact that Maddy will one day be a world-published author in her own right, this book deserves some proper reviewing and not just proud and soppy uncle noise.

So I should talk about the writing. Perfectly laid out, with an impressive vocabulary, everything flows just as it should. The chapters are varied in length, giving it a real punchiness when it is needed, and allowing the characters to develop where that is more appropriate. You really get a sense of who the different characters are from how they are presented – none more so than the Sorceress who is not in a lot of the book, but is such a well rounded character that you would believe she was. Particular care has gone into the dialogue – something quite difficult to write, but which Madison has handled very well.

In terms of story, I really enjoyed how many influences there were in the book. The character of Sandy (that’s me!) is very much influenced by Cinderella, and indeed a large chunk of the narrative follows this pattern, but it is by no means a carbon copy, and instead there are nods to other media such as Wicked, Sword in the Stone, Frozen, Sleeping Beauty and even Hunger Games. I don’t know how many were intentional, as there are not outright references to these franchises, but the fact that in only twenty five pages, images of each of these are conjured to the reader is no mean feat for a writer yet to hit teenage years.

A special nod as well to the way that chapters are cleverly ended. Nothing feels rushed here – the formulation of each section is specific and to tell what it needs to do – and resolution on a chapter by chapter basis is unnecessary. It really gives the book a “Makes The Reader Want To Read On” feel, which is ideal for a fairy tale of any sort.

So in conclusion, I loved this book because my incredibly talented niece (scrap that – OUR incredibly talented niece) wrote it for us as a memento of our greatest ever day. I also loved it because it is a really well written story that had all the hallmarks of a great piece of fiction. If I had to pick up on issues, there is only one. We own the only copy so none of you unlucky people are able to read it yourself. Can I instead suggest you give it a few years and then go and pick up a copy of her debut published novel once it arrives? And remember, you read it here first!